Young Kiwanis give back to the community

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published May 22, 2013

 Third-graders Hazel Johnson and Martez Jolly show off the teddy bears they made in the K-Kids Club at Steenland Elementary in Roseville.

Third-graders Hazel Johnson and Martez Jolly show off the teddy bears they made in the K-Kids Club at Steenland Elementary in Roseville.

Photo by Sara Kandel

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ROSEVILLE — As the school year comes to a close, a group of 32 third-grade students at Steenland Elementary are putting their last eight months of learning about the importance of giving back to good use with a few big projects.

The first of the end-of-year projects took place May 15, when after a couple months of working on them, the Steenland K-Kids Club donated 32 hand-stitched teddy bears to Children’s Hospital of Michigan. The club, which is part of the Kiwanis organization, is focused on learning life lessons and finding ways to give back to the community. The teddy bear project offered equal doses of both.

“It was really interesting to see the kids making the bears; a lot of them probably never had needle and thread in their hands before,” said Kathy Giese, a tech paraprofessional who helps run the club. “It’s something, too, that gives them real-world experience that they should know how to do.”

It was a project the kids had fun doing, and many have already put their new sewing skills to use. Prior to presenting their donation to the hospital, Giese asked the club if any of them had sewn anything since completing their teddy bears.

A half-dozen hands shot up. One little boy said he sewed a rip in his jeans, another said he sewed a dollar bill together that had torn in half and a third said he helped his mom with a quilt she was making.

Hazel Johnson’s mom taught her to sew prior to the project, but the project helped her hone her skills, and it’s now a hobby. She’s moved on from teddy bears and is now sewing her own doll clothes.

“I think it was really fun,” said Johnson of the project. “You get to do a lot of cool projects in K-Kids. I hope I can be in the club again next year.”

The Steenland club is the first in the district and just started at the beginning of the school year. Giese and Kiwanis representative and school board Trustee Ruth Green started the program at the school. Green had worked with a K-Kids Club in Detroit, and when that school closed, she decided to bring the program to her city and approached Giese about the club.

Together, the two started the club at Steenland, holding half-hour meetings once a month during the school day. They remain dedicated to keeping the club going next year, but say they want to move the meeting time to after school.

“If we have it after school and we take a little more time, it won’t take away from their curriculum, so we are going to try and do it after school so they can still have the benefit of all of their subjects and what have you. And we can work longer than a half-hour, if necessary, if we are doing something that takes a little more time,” Green said.

They haven’t decided yet if they want to open it up to more grades, which would mean a lot more student members.

It’s possible to make it happen because the club isn’t just popular with students; teachers are asking to join, too. Since the club’s beginning, speech teacher Susan Steinbacher, special education teacher Charmaine Greenhouse and third-grade teacher Laney Kosarek have signed up to help with the new club, and others have relayed interest.

Giese said it’s something they will have to talk about, but now is not the time. The current club has a few more big projects planned before the end of the school year. On May 27, they will be participating in the Roseville Memorial Day Parade; on May 29, they will be participating in Relay Recess to raise money for Relay for Life; and on June 8, they are performing a song at Relay for Life.

The club works hard to give back to the community, but they have fun doing it. Following their donation to Children’s Hospital of Michigan — which in addition to teddy bears included 32 teddy-bear blankets donated by a club member and her mom, and more than three dozen full-size, hand-woven blankets donated to the Kiwanis Club by St. Clair Shores resident Evelyn Maxvill — the K-Kids went right back to giving back and started working on posters for the Roseville Neighborhood Watch.

“It’s kids being able to make a difference, giving back to people — and starting them at this age makes it so they will follow through when they get older and really realize the importance of giving back,” Giese said. “They’re learning leadership and learning how to give back to others; both are important lessons.”

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